Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where Antarctic Predatory Seabirds Overwinter

02.12.2011
Polar-Ornithologists of Jena University explain flight routes of skuas with international team

When it comes to choosing their wintering destinations Antarctic skuas are flexible. This is shown in a study of an international research team led by the polar-ornithologist Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). According to the study, a great part of the South Polar skuas spend the Antarctic winter in the Northern Atlantic. At the same time about one third of the same species overwinters in the Northern Pacific, tens of thousands of miles away.


South Polar skua with geolocator (right leg).
Photo: Matthias Kopp/FSU

In order to identify the flight routes of the birds, postgraduate Matthias Kopp, under the guidance of Dr. Peter, equipped South Polar skuas with geolocators in their breeding areas on King George Island, about 120 kilometers off the Antarctic Mainland. Thus he has been screening their position data over a period of several years, followed by an analysis together with British colleagues and a scientist from Switzerland. “With the help of these data we can now for the first time definitely say that the South Polar skuas are not overwintering, like their close relatives, the brown skuas, off the Argentine coast but mainly in the northern hemisphere”, explains the head of research, Dr. Peter. So far the scientists could only speculate about where the birds overwinter and which routes they are heading for. “The observation of single birds led us to the assumption that they overwinter in the Atlantic. But so far it wasn’t known that a great part of them stay as well in the middle of the Northern Pacific in the winter”, says the Jena scientist who has been researching in Antarctica since 1983 on a regular basis.

No matter, which ocean the birds are heading towards for overwintering, their flight routes show remarkable similarities. Thus the flight routes from the north and the return travel to the south are always shaped like a slip knot crossing on the equator. On both flights together the birds showed a big figure-of-eight flight pattern. At first the skuas which are overwintering in the Atlantic fly on a wide corridor northwards along the east coast of South America, and then change direction after having passed the equator and head towards the northwest. At the end of May they arrive at their destination in the Northern Atlantic. In the three months they spent on the open sea they wander along with the wind and the ocean current for more than 1,000 kilometers in a eastward direction, before they start their return flight in end-August. Before arriving at their breeding sites on King George Island they have a stop-over. For up to three weeks the birds are resting off the Patagonian coast and refill their body reserves.

The flight route into the North Pacific leads at first along the coast of South America and then changes direction towards the northwest above the equator. In mid-May, two weeks earlier than their conspecifics overwintering in the Atlantic, the skuas arrive at their winter quarters in the Pacific. These animals too, let themselves drift along with the wind and the waves up to 3,000 kilometers eastwards. Their way back leads them in a wide curve in a southwestern direction towards New Zealand and finally turns in a southeasterly direction into Antarctica. There, they are resting for a few days as well before they return to their breeding site. “We think that the animals need this resting phase to recover from the strain of the long trip through the tropics where food is scarce”, Dr. Peter says.

Once the skuas have decided on an ocean for a winter quarter, they will head towards the same destination in the following years as well. Until now the scientists didn’t know the ultimate reason for the animals’ decision on one particular direction. ”We know for sure though that the animals get their own bearings and don’t learn the route from their parents”, Dr. Peter says. And so for him and his colleagues some questions still remain unanswered. Therefore the Jena scientist will leave for a research trip to Antarctica this year – 100 years after Roald Amundsen, the first person ever to reach the South Pole. Two of Dr. Peter’s students are already on site and have captured the first Skuas. For Hans-Ulrich Peter it is he 22th expedition to the world’s most southern continent.

Contact:
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Peter
Institute of Ecology
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Dornburger Str. 159, D-07743 Jena, Germany
phone: ++49 3641 949415
email: Hans-Ulrich.Peter[at]uni-jena.de

Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-jena.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>